Bishop Denis Nulty has laid out his blueprint for the future of the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin in the face of the growing shortage of priests.
“The present situation of the shortage of vocations, the age profile of the priests and the stress associated with such realities needs serious reflection,” Bishop Nulty said at a diocesan gathering in Mt St Anne’s in Co. Laois attended by over 150 people last week.
The bishop announced four steps to alleviate the stressful workload of priests and asked that every parish engage in the process of a diocesan consultation about the future.
From the summer of 2019, every priest in the diocese who has reached the age of 75 “can stand down from all parish administration work” and instead lay people will be trained up in all aspects of parish administration. Bishop Nulty said priests are obviously “most welcome to continue celebrating Masses, working as chaplains in schools and hospitals, pastorally ministering in the parish” but not “carrying the burden of administration”, which he said is “simply not fair”.
Bishop Nulty’s plan asks for every parish to have a team of lay people working towards the “shared goal of collaborative leadership by the autumn of 2018”.
He said while Parish Pastoral Councils exist, they are not in every parish and can differ from parish to parish, and “it would be a big mistake simply to pigeon-hole lay people into an existing clerical model of leadership”.
The bishop said that it was not his intention to close any churches, “but there may in some areas of the diocese have to be a reappraisal of Mass times in conjunction with neighbouring parishes or cluster groups”.
Finally, Bishop Nulty encouraged priests to take sabbaticals as “a normal feature of diocesan life”.